If you live in Tampa or have a vacation coming up this month, then you are in for the return of Gasparilla 2023!
Gasparilla The Pirate Festival in Tampa is one of the most well-attended events in the United States. An estimated 300,000 people from all around Tampa come together annually for this pirate-themed festival that incorporates a big procession, live music, kid-friendly activities, and much more.
Why do we celebrate Gasparilla?
Gasparilla’s origins can be traced back to its name. The name Gasparilla comes from Jose Gaspar, a feared pirate who worked off the coast of West Florida in the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Gaspar and his pirates seized and robbed merchant ships off the Gulf Coast until 1821. Gaspar and his men were ready to divide their wealth and retire to luxury when they seized one last ship. This ship was a disguised US Navy vessel. The U.S. Navy crew won a deadly struggle and ended Jose Gaspar’s thieving career.
Throughout the Tampa area, the legend of the enigmatic Gaspar continued to spread. In 1904, the people in charge of the city decided to honor this victory over evil by making Gaspar the city’s patron villain. The original Gasparilla krewe was called “Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla,” and it was formed through a series of covert meetings. This krewe would go on to make Gasparilla history by shocking the citizens of Tampa with a sham pirate invasion of the city, now referred to by its official name, the Pirate Invasion.
Things during the Pirate Invasion were different then. For the first several years of Gasparilla, the invasion was not by a typical pirate ship but rather masked krewe men on horseback. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the simulated invasion, local officials resolved to make Gasparilla an annual tradition.
Now, the pirates from Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the only fully rigged pirate ship in the world, pass into Tampa Bay before the start of the festival and launch a “strike.” Many pleasure boats, thinking they can stop Gaspar’s fake pirate ship from plundering the city, go out to meet him, only to realize they’re in over their heads and decide to join the invasion instead. When they arrive at the Tampa Convention Center, the mayor will have no choice but to hand over the city’s keys to this huge pirate fleet. Once they have the key in their possession, the pirate krewe takes control of the city and throws the jubilant Gasparilla Festival and Knight Parade that we all take part in today.
What to Expect at the Gasparilla Festival
- On January 21, 2023, Chick-fil-A will host the Ashley Children’s Gasparilla Parade.
Children’s Gasparilla Parade Day features kid-friendly activities and a parade along Bayshore Blvd. The “Kids Procession” occurs a week before the main “adult” Gasparilla pirate invasion and parade. The Children’s Gasparilla Parade is an alcohol-free event where children of all ages and their parents may enjoy watching over a hundred floats, participating in a promenade specifically designed for toddlers, and even participating in a bike safety rodeo.
The parade will be commemorating its 76th birthday and will feature around 125 units, including krewes, school groups, and other local organizations, amongst other things. In addition to that, there will be a Gasparilla Air Invasion, which will consist of precision jumpers, skywriters, and airplanes flying throughout the day and night. The fireworks finale for the Piratechnic will take place on the Jose Gasparilla center stage, which will be decorated with lights and cannons as well as fireworks.
- On January 28, 2023, the Seminole Hard Rock will host the Gasparilla Pirate Fest.
Gasparilla Pirate Fest highlights Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla’s 105th Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates. The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates: “Make way, Mateys!” is one of the events that takes place during the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. The 4.5-mile parade will proceed down historic Bayshore Blvd. and into downtown Tampa, and it will feature more than 140 units, including more than 103 floats, 5 marching bands, more than 50 krewes, and the YMKG pirates!
Along the Tampa Riverwalk, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Pirate Fest, presented by Bud Light Seltzer, will be held. Both before and after the parade, there will be live music on stages in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and MacDill Park. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of this chance and enjoy their tour along Tampa’s world-famous waterfront.
Click here for event updates, street closures, parade routes, and other information to help you enjoy the festivities safely.
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